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Counting AmericansHow the US Census Classified the Nation$
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Paul Schor

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780199917853

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199917853.001.0001

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Whether to Name or Count Slaves

Whether to Name or Count Slaves

The Refusal of Identification

(p.43) 4 Whether to Name or Count Slaves
Counting Americans

Paul Schor

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers developments leading up to the census of 1850, heralded as the “first scientific census” of the United States. It made a clean break with its predecessors and solidified the influence of the reformer statisticians who found in it a way to make up for the catastrophic census of 1840. The most important change was the shift from the familial level for collection of information to individual data: a whole line of the principal schedule was devoted to each member of a family. The other great innovation was the division of the census into six separate schedules: free inhabitants; slaves; mortality (information on persons who had died during the past year); agriculture; manufactures; and social statistics (taxes; numbers of schools, of newspapers, of churches; criminality; and libraries within the district). Enumerating slaves led to intense political debates in Congress in the context of the sectional crisis.

Keywords:   slaves, slavery, race, statistician, scientific census, US census

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